Every day in this country, over 2000 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and several of them will die. A CASA volunteer – also known as a Court Appointed Special Advocate – is a tireless and passionate protector of a child who has been abused or neglected and is going through the trauma of the juvenile court system. CASA of Maury County is a community-based program that educates and empowers these citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in our courtrooms and communities.
CASA volunteers receive 30 plus hours of training, background checks and an interview process before they are sworn in by the Juvenile Court Judge. CASAs are then granted authority by the juvenile court. When the state steps in to protect a child’s safety because the people responsible for protecting the child have not, a juvenile court judge can appoint a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what is best for the child. CASA volunteers ensure that each child’s needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system.
CASA volunteers have unique powers to move each child’s case towards permanent and safe placement, rather than allowing the child to languish in the child welfare system. Through the training and support they receive, CASA volunteers have the following powers:
- The power to get information. A CASA volunteer has greater access to information than anyone in the case except the judge. CASA Volunteers are able to speak freely with a child’s parents, teachers, medical providers, therapists, and others who may have information relevant to a child’s case. With this information, CASA volunteers are able to fashion a plan to insure the child receives the resources needed for success. The confidential information received by CASA volunteers can make all the difference in a child’s long term health, well-being, and safety.
- The power to work outside the bureaucracy. Advocates are able to work above and outside the system because they are concerned with only one question – “what is best for the child?” Even though CASA volunteers work in tandem with the child welfare system, there is no fear of reprisal because CASA is an independent voice.
- The power of faithfulness. Even though foster homes, schools, counselors, and caseworkers may change, a child’s CASA volunteer is a constant. A CASA volunteer stays with the child until hearing those all-important words – safe and permanent home. In the midst of incredible uncertainty, a child can experience the power of a faithful, dedicated, and persistent volunteer advocate.
CASA volunteers—empowered directly by Maury County juvenile court—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care. Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in loving, permanent, and safe homes. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer may be the only constant adult presence in their lives.
To read more about the policies, procedures, and finances of CASA of Maury County, please check out our GivingMatters.com organization profile here.